Monday Rain, Market, and more Old Havana: 11/27/17 Monday

My run this morning was sun-less, cooler, and graced with a beautiful cloud-layered sky.  Soon after our group left the apartment, it began to rain which turned into pouring rain.  We were headed to the San Jose Market right on the water but fortunately for us it was completely enclosed so it was a great activity to be doing this morning.

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This well-known market has over 400 booths of all kinds of art (paintings, photography, wood carvings, local & handmade everything).  It’s really fun to peruse but also becomes exhausting because the merchants are clamoring for your attention and just short of obnoxiously trying to get your business.  We were there about an hour and a half which I didn’t think would be enough due to the size of the market, but after about 30 minutes one realizes that’s more than enough.  Cleve said we can return before we leave Friday if we wish, so not to be hasty in our purchases.  I didn’t feel hasty but I did buy more than I anticipated.  It was not only fun to see the wide variety of (mostly) quality pieces and items, but the prices generally were quite reasonable and made buying things easy.  One feels they are benefitting the individuals selling their wares, though I’m not sure quite how much difference we are really making.

 

My most fun stop was to purchase several Cuban-style hats that I really wanted to get for myself and some gifts.  The booth I stopped in was not one I was “pressured” into, and the maker of the hats, Orestes, was really genuine, friendly, helpful, and patient as I explained who the recipients of the hats would be, and tried on different styles and color patterns.  He showed me how to fold the brims in various ways, and how to gently flatten them and roll them up for packing into a suitcase to take home, then how to unroll and reform back into their original shape.  And we did this all in Spanish.  I was having a blast!

 

Orestes, hat designer and fitter in Booth #74 in the huge San Jose Market in Havana.

Orestes, hat designer and fitter in Booth #74 in the huge San Jose Market in Havana.

I bought a few other things which I will enjoy keeping or giving away, but for me this experience was mostly about interacting with local people and speaking Spanish.  I truly love this connection and every sentence I force out means the next sentence will be, or feel, less-forced.  This is how I improve and how I enjoy the language and connecting with people.

Our group re-convened at noon, but it was absolutely pouring at that time.  Cleve made an executive decision that we’d go right next door to a restaurant that had been re-purposed from a port warehouse and hang out for lunch and wait out the rain.  I jumped in with Amauri after and he drove me to our apartment with everyone’s purchases (like 10 bags) and I was also able to replenish my money supply.  Though there seems to be very little crime nor reason to feel unsafe, it is always advisable that obvious tourists (and, we are) if possible not carry a bunch of money on them at one time.  Ahd I had just spent a significant portion of what I was carrying today!  So I “refilled” at home, then re-joined the group.  Bonus for me was that I got to spend some 1:1 time with Amauri and we spoke Spanish (so I could practice) and I learned more about him.  So nice.

Cuban coffee is delicious!  They often sprinkle just a little cinnamon on the top.  I take notes from wise Charlotte, who orders a cappuccino after every meal!

Cuban coffee is delicious! They often sprinkle just a little cinnamon on the top. I take notes from wise Charlotte, who orders a cappuccino after every meal!

 

The rain ended while we lunched, and we were able to go out on foot again – back into Old Havana (we had been there 2 days earlier) to explore some more and revisit a couple sites if we wished.  One included the Hotel Ambos Mundos where Pulitzer’s Prize author Earnest Hemingway spent a ton of time when he stayed in Havana.  We had a guided tour of his room which was very educational, before heading to the roof deck and its great view over of this part of the city.

 

Earnest Hemmingway's regular room in the Old Havana hotel "Ambos Mundos"; we got a tour of the room and a history lesson on Hemmingway's relationship with Cuba (he loved it)

Earnest Hemmingway’s regular room in the Old Havana hotel “Ambos Mundos”; we got a tour of the room and a history lesson on Hemmingway’s relationship with Cuba (he loved it)

After, we went back out into the streets and met another friend of Cleve’s, Adelaide, in a square where she has a little station for selling goods and doing palm-reading.  She and Cleve were introduced years ago by some travelers.  I didn’t fully understand the significance she represents in this neighborhood but did learn she is very well-known, is the subject of multiple paintings in the San Jose Mkt we were in this morning.  She smokes cigars throughout the day (was smoking when we met her), has extremely long painted nails, and has a huge heart as she regularly does helpful things for her neighborhood children including throwing a large party in January/Feb each year (100 or more neighborhood kids attend) where she gives age-appropriate and need-appropriate gifts to each and every child, as well as decorates the corner of the neighborhood and makes costumes for the kids.  This means the world to them, and their families.

Cleve and his Cuban friend and "neighborhood mother", Adelaide.  Each group Cleve brings to Havana brings Adelaide some gifts to contribute to the annual party she throws for local children in January or February.  And yes her nails are a few inches long and she smokes a cigar.

Cleve and his Cuban friend and “neighborhood mother”, Adelaide. Each group Cleve brings to Havana brings Adelaide some gifts to contribute to the annual party she throws for local children in January or February. And yes her nails are a few inches long and she smokes a cigar.

Cleve had sent us an email before we arrived, briefing us on Adelaide’s neighborhood party-for-children, and giving us a short list of things to bring/donate to her to help her provide for them.  I had brought some stuffed animals, baby wipes, and costume jewelry.  She had such a good time opening the bags that each of us had brought her (for the kids)!

 

We finished our neighborhood tour that included another cool square, 17th Century Cathedral, and a wood print-making sho

Me in one of the Old Havana squares, in front of a 18th Century cathedral.  There aren't nearly as many cathedrals here as there are in European cities!

Me in one of the Old Havana squares, in front of a 18th Century cathedral. There aren’t nearly as many cathedrals here as there are in European citie

We all split up for dinner/evening activities tonight.  One of my favorite things to do in evening when I travel – this started when I was on the Camino in Spain – is go to dinner alone, reflect on the day, enjoy local food/drink, and write my blog.  So here I am.  Loving every second, stuffed with good food, and really tired.  Body and mind.  There is so much to take in here.  My heart is full and a little confused simply because my paradigm is challenged by the apparent struggle combined with the seemingly content family and community ties, along with the complex history and politics of Cuba and North America.  I am so grateful to have been born in the United States, for all it’s provided me and affords me.  Coming here also helps me stretch that paradigm and challenge many of the things I take for granted as just “what is” in my current life.  I’m so grateful for the opportunity to get to go this.

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